Things That Matter

New U.S Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, the Chicano’s Literary Rock Star

On Wednesday morning, Herrera became U.S. poet laureate for his prolific countless poems and inspirational work as an educator – but writing poems isn’t the only thing this Chicano can do. He’s a rockstar, actor, master bird-caller and so much more…

He’s the first Chicano to achieve this honor. And it’s kind of a big deal.

Juan Felipe Herrera
Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

No Latino has ever received this high-level title and it doesn’t get any higher than this. Other poets who’ve received this honor include the great Robert Frost and Philip Levine.

His mother’s singing helped him fall in love with poetry.

Thousands of Embraces
Credit: The Root of a THousand Embraces / Amazon

The songs that inspired him the most were about the Mexican Revolution – of all things. If she could see how far he’s come, “my mother would be so happy. She’d be clapping. Maybe crying. And dancing.”

Bird calling is one of his secret talents.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

As told in his children’s book Calling the Doves, he tells how his dad taught him how to master the art so perfectly by whistling into his hands, doves would fly right in.

As the son of migrant workers, one of his biggest passions is immigration.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

His parents came from Mexico after the Mexican Revolution of 1910 in search of the American Dream. During his youth, his family moved from tents to trailers, “crop to crop, field to field” so his parents could sustain work as field workers.

Walt Whitman is one of his biggest inspirations.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

Like Breaking Bad‘s Walter White who kept Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in his bathroom, Juan Felipe Herrera also drew inspiration from Whitman’s works. Among his other inspirations were César Vallejo and Picasso.

He was punished for not being fluent in English. Then proved the haters wrong.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

He recalls being punished in the first grade for not speaking perfect English. Fast-forward a few years and he went on to get degrees from UCLA and Stanford – and later become the U.S. Poet Laureate. How’s that for fluency?

His books of poetry resonate with audiences of all ages.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

He’s published over two dozen books with poems that swing between English and Spanish.

Easy to see why. His words and enthusiasm are contagious.

Credit: UCR MFA Program / YouTube

Herrera told the Washington Post that he believes poetry “is a way to attain a life without borders.”

The acting bug bit him in the late 60s.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

He attended UCLA, being amongst the first to receive an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) scholarship. There he was influenced by the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Luis Valdez and began performing in experimental theatre.

So did the music bug.

Credit: USC Libraries / YouTube

He likes to plays some sick licks to accompany his poems.

As you can see, his words transcend into all genres, including musicals.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

His popular children’s book The Upside Down Boy was adapted into a musical and has published award-winning fiction.

Artistic talent runs in the family.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

His uncle Roberto is an actor, community organizer, radio host and comedic theatre performer. His other uncle was a muralist and painter. His dad founded this church in Mesquite, New Mexico in the early 1930s.

Oh, and he’s just like us.

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Credit: Juan Felipe Herrera / Facebook

Herrera loves to share pictures of food…especially chiles.

Who’s your favorite Latino poet? Leave a comment below to let us know.

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Lil Nas X’s Next Big Drop Is A Children’s Book Called ‘C Is For Country’

Entertainment

Lil Nas X’s Next Big Drop Is A Children’s Book Called ‘C Is For Country’

Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty

Turns out Lil Nas X has more than just country rap up his sleeve. The 21-year-old “Old Town Road” rapper has a penchant for literature too.

On Tuesday, the rapper revealed that he’s written a children’s book called C Is for Country.

“I’m dropping the best kids’ book of all time soon!” the rapper shared in a Tweet earlier this week before adding that he couldn’t “wait to share it” with his fans and young readers.

Nas’s children’s book is being published under Random House Kids, a division of Penguin Random House. It is currently available for preorder on their site.

According to the Random House Kids’ website, the book is a story about Lil Nas X and Panini the pony.

“Join superstar Lil Nas X—who boasts the longest-running #1 song in history—and Panini the pony on a joyous journey through the alphabet from sunup to sundown. Experience wide-open pastures, farm animals, guitar music, cowboy hats, and all things country in this debut picture book that’s perfect for music lovers learning their ABCs and for anyone who loves Nas’s signature genre-blending style,” Random House describes in its explanation.

The book is illustrated by Theodore Taylor III and promises “plenty of hidden surprises for Nas’ biggest fans.”

C Is for County comes out Jan. 5.

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Black Books To Read To Your Children Right Now

Fierce

Black Books To Read To Your Children Right Now

The Books Wars

Black children of today are being forced to face literally a world of uncertainty and so much pain. Still, that doesn’t mean that the world they look at is without its potentials and that their efforts won’t make an impact.

In light of recent events, we’ve gathered a list of children’s books to read to your children as a reminder that they are powerful and that Black lives really matter.

Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Amazon.com

This poetic and lyrical children’s book for Black readers is a reminder to dream big. Beautifully illustrated and perfect for out-loud reading, this book will instill pride in the radical and cultural identity of those who are Black.

Ages 3–10.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Amazon.com

Published in 1962, The Snowy Day is a children’s book that follows Peter, an African American boy, who takes a walk around his neighborhood after the season’s first snowfall. Written by Ezra Keats this book received the 1963 Caldecott Medal for its artwork and was the first picture book that featured an African American protagonist.

Ages 2 and up

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Amazon.com

This book might be intended for children ages 3 to 7 but it’s an important one for children and people of all ages. Educational and inspiring this book is a dedication to forty Black women in American history. Flip through these pages and learn more about the activists like abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and poet Maya Angelou.

Ages 3 – 7

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry

Amazon.com

Teach your little one about self-love and Black beauty with this book about Zuri a girl who has hair with a mind of its own. Fortunately, her dad steps in to take up the phone and help her sort through her kinks, coils for a special event.

Ages 4 – 8

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

Amazon.com

Written by Black actress Lupita Nyong’o, this whimsical book is a celebration of Black skin and beauty. Nyong’o’scharacter Sulwe has skin the color of midnight and yearns to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister but a magical journey in the night sky, fortunately, changes her opinion of everything.

Ages 4 – 8

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson

Amazon.com

Nelson’s children’s book takes flight with one of America’s best-known songs and follows a boy and his family as they live in and engage in the world we live in.

Ages 4–8.

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